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HP6: The Movie in Review

Reviewing The Half-Blood Prince

Reviewing The Half-Blood Prince

It began with a Stone.

Continued with a Basilisk in a chamber, a murderer escaping from an un-escapable prison, a tournament of wizards from around the world, the return of Evil, and the formation of an army to rise up against him.

It’s the story of a boy-who-lived and his legendary quest to stand up against he-who-must-not-be-named.

And it’s one of the most beautiful and beloved stories of our generation.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the 6th part in J.K. Rowling’s 7 book masterpiece, and in many ways it serves as merely the prelude to the final chapter, setting in motion the things that must take place for the forces of good to challenge, and triumph, over the forces of evil. And this past week, Director David Yates (who also helmed Order of the Phoenix) partnered with Screenplay Writer Steve Kloves (who wrote all BUT Order of the Phoenix screenplays) to take on the challenge of adapting the gorgeous story of book 6 into the tricky, fickle art of film.

It’s always delicate when watching the movie of a book you love, and in an upcoming blog I will talk about the ever present “book versus movie” dialogue, and why it can be unfair to compare the two. But for now, I’ll say that it’s impossible to NOT, however, think of one when engaging with the other, so in my review it will come up from time to time. Just know that we’ll jump in to this topic in further detail later. (Warning: if you don’t know how this, or the whole, story ends, there are plot spoilers to follow.)

HARRY POTTER and the HALF-BLOOD PRINCE

One of the more frustrating scenes

One of the more frustrating scenes

When the credits rolled, and I walked towards our car, I couldn’t stop thinking, “wow, I LOVED that movie!” Meanwhile, my wife, who is arguably a bigger fan of the Potter series, kept uttering, “wow, I HATED that movie!” As we talked, we realized that we had different criteria by which we judged the movie (which is, obviously, part of the beauty of art). I couldn’t get over how incredible the movie looked and felt. The cinematography, the photography, the way the shots were framed, the coloring (oh,the coloring!) were all brilliant. It felt like a ‘grown up’ film, if that makes sense. The sets were gorgeous (if not a bit distant from previous established Potter sets). The lighting reflected perfectly the mood of the film. Credit goes to David Yates for creating a beautiful movie. And these sorts of things tend to receive more weight in my mind when I judge films.

By contrast, my wife tends to focus on the nuances of the story and the relationships, the characters and finer plot points. And as she processed through the movie, it became clear that some of these aspects of the film could be weighed and found wanting.

What I’m getting at, is that because of how I initially react to films, I started from a place of really liking the movie. Then, as I began to sort through what I liked and didn’t like, I soon found out that there was quite a bit I did not like about the movie… several pieces of the story that were mis-handled or not handled at all.

For instance, the potions book belonging to the Half-Blood Prince played a significant role in the story. However, in the film, it felt like they resented having to include it. The blossoming relationship between Harry and Ginny was both poorly portrayed and awkwardly shown. Some of the visual effects felt like an afterthought (the first scene of the bridge being rent, the Inferi at the end). Hogwarts didn’t “feel” like Hogwarts (where was the art on the wall?). Much of the actual magic and magical moments in the film felt more “normal” or “non-magical,” if that makes sense. And the most offensive  of all was the slaughtering of the end. Every Potter fan was desperately awaiting the final climax, the moment where our 2nd favorite character finds his end. We sat on the edge of our seats expecting Dumbledore to “freeze” Harry so that he could not interfere with what was about to come. Because that’s PRECISELY what Harry Potter does: he rushes, without thinking, headlong in to danger to try and save the ones he loves. And by choosing to NOT have him be frozen, we get a false-Harry moment. It’s not believable to watch Harry from below the deck passively observing those final moments. And then, once the deed is done and Snape does the unthinkable, WHERE IS THE EPIC BATTLE AT HOGWARTS? No showdown between the Death Eaters and the Order? No funeral service for Albus Dumbledore? No final and beautiful moment between Harry and Ginny? Sorry, this may be the moment where I begin to break my own rules and say the movie just did NOT do the book, no, the STORY, justice.

However, in the end, I still feel like the movie was really good. There were flashes of brilliance: Harry when he took Felix Felicis (the best acting Danielle Radcliffe has done in 6 movies), the Quidditch match, the Weasley Bros joke shop, the jokes between Harry and Ron, the flashbacks with Tom Riddle, the character of Slughorn, and the music… mmm, the music was fantastic!

I’ll have to watch it again before I can rank where it sits alongside the first 5 films. And maybe after the final 2 movies come out (yes, if you haven’t heard, book 7 will be made in 2 parts, Nov ’10 and July ’11) we may look back and appreciate the way they handled the Half-Blood Prince a little more. If you haven’t read the books, close your internet and begin now. If you can’t do that, and you’ve already seen the first 5 movies, do not miss your chance to catch this film in the theater, you’ll probably love it even more than those of us who have read them, because it truly is a beautiful, well made piece of art. But, for the ending alone, I give it only 4 out of 5 stars.

What about you? How did you feel about it? What did you like or dislike?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: 4.5 Stars

3 Responses to “HP6: The Movie in Review”

  1. Katie

    (CAUTION: IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW BOOK 7 ENDS, YOU MAY WANT TO SKIP THE LAST PART OF THIS COMMENT AND COLBY’S FOLLOWING COMMENT)

    Here are some of my thoughts that I sent your wife. Loved your review, and couldn’t agree more!

    I loved the first half of the movie. It was funny and I felt like they weren’t rushing through things. Won-Won and Lavender, Hermione’s heartbreak, the birds on Ron’s head, the Quiddich match, Fred and George’s shop, Slughorn, Draco Malfoy, all great. The “new” Dumbledore is awful, I thought he did a much better job than he did in 3, 4, and 5. He seemed softer and a little more true to the real Dumbledore. I laughed a lot overall, loved it! Then, once we hit the random Death-Eater chasing scene at Christmas time, it was downhill. What was that all about? Not in the book and really didn’t seem to have any significance later. During the movie, I thought they were using it to introduce Fenrir Greyback, but then they did NOTHING with him later on. I thought Harry and Ginny’s love was cheesy, or like you said, awkward! I don’t like Ginny the actress, she is too shy and doesn’t look or act the part well. They should be breaking up at the end, not getting together! Overall, that love story was poorly done.

    The two worst things they did were that they changed the characters of both Dumbledore and Harry. When Dumbledore finally sees the memory from Slughorn in the movie, he is astounded that Voldemort is making Horcruxes. He falls over in disbelief. This is NOT the true picture of Dumbledore. Dumbledore is almost omniscient in one sense, he KNEW what Voldemort was doing, he just wanted confirmation as well as to know how many times Voldemort had done it. In the movie, he almost seemed to be played the fool. This is not true to Dumbledore’s character. Colby, you hit on this, and Nick and I talked about it right after the movie – Harry would NEVER have stood there and watch Dumbledore be killed! Harry would have been rash and run out and done SOMETHING. Dumbledore KNEW this about Harrry (again Dumbledore’s understanding of things) and so he had to bind him up. In that part, both Harry and Dumbledore went against their characters. I don’t mind movies where they have to cut parts and even change parts a little, but it bothers me when they change the essence of characters. Skipping the battle at the end was silly, they should have cut out that stupid Burrow scene. I also thought they alluded to Snape’s innocence WAY too much. They even showed the argument between Snape and Dumbledore, something we don’t find out about until the END of Book 7. At the end of Book 6, you are supposed to feel a sense of despair. Everyone in the Order is shocked that Dumbledore is dead and Snape is guilty. They were shocked, betrayed, and hopeless (shown by Professor McGonagal and Lupin in the hospital wing when Harry tells them what happened). The Order all depended on Dumbledore, he was their guiding light. His loss was a huge blow to the wizarding world as a whole. Skipping his funeral only downplayed this. All that to say, the end left me feeling wrong, which was very sad because the first part was so great. I do think it was the best movie yet, better acting, better filming, etc. I am hoping to get back to see it again before it comes out on video to better analyze. ☺ Oh yeah, and one last thing….I think Daniel Radcliff is way too small! I hate how he looks and how they dress him. They make him look even shorter and more twerp-like! They can’t help how tall the guy is, but they could do more to disguise it!

    Reply
    • colbymartin

      katie, thanks for the read and for leaving your thoughts.

      you reminded me of something i meant to mention regarding things i did NOT like about the film: that silly, unnecessary scene at the burrow during christmas. what?! it seems that even the casual, “haven’t-read-the-books” audience would be scratching their heads at that scene. why did the death eaters just show up and fly away into the field of dreams? why could only ginny run through the fire and not remus or mr weasley? why, after lobbing a few curses, did the death eaters fly back and burn the burrow and just leave? how did this scene contribute to the overall narrative of the movie? it seems that maybe they were just needing some material to help with the budding relationship between harry and ginny (didn’t work). or maybe they felt they needed some extra action in an otherwise “action-light” story (which completely makes sense for a movie… IF THERE WASN’T ALREADY AN EPIC BATTLE AT HOGWARTS IN THE END… guh…)

      also, you touched on something else that i didn’t mention (because i wasn’t sure who was gonna read this… that’s why i went and added that disclaimer before your comment). but they TOTALLY alluded to snape’s overall intentions way to much. in fact, katie and i saw the movie with another couple who had NOT read the books, and that was one of the first things they said afterwords… that snape was still good. which, as you well know, when you finish reading book 6 you are ready to buy a plane ticket, fly to london, and hunt down severus yourself! granted, words on a page are a much easier medium to “hide” motives and intentions, whereas in film you have to account for facial expression and body language… but that’s the job of the director, to ‘direct’ his actors into making the right facial expressions, etc. so yes, i agree, that was poorly played…

      it’s funny, isn’t it, how MANY things we seem to be picking apart, yet still we say that we loved the movie?

      Reply
  2. Kate Martin

    you guys have totally reminded me of all the good parts of the movie in the beginning(or actually most of the way through until that dreadful ending!) and i thank you for that yet i still can’t muster up the words… “i liked that movie”. erg.

    oh and katie… I HATE DANIEL RADCLIFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! =) always have. he’s SO not harry potter! your description of him is funny! twerp-like… classic!

    Reply

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